Say you're making penne with vodka sauce and you're out of vodka.

And you don’t realize it until you’re halfway done. “Did you take the rest of the vodka?!” “Yeah, you told me to!” “I forgot, and plus I didn’t mean it!”

So, I panicked and threw in some bourbon, which is probably a mistake. I understand that the point of the vodka is to make the flavors more intense, not to taste like vodka, and there are already plenty of flavors in my sauce - I use a bunch of pancetta, fry it up with some butter, throw in the vodka and cook it down, then add tomato sauce and cream. Delicious.

So, I think the bourbon is probably going to be a little weird - I thought about sherry but decided that the pancetta and cream and all are already kind of sweet to start with… I dunno.

What SHOULD I have used? We have just about every other kind of liquor, plus a generally well-stocked kitchen.

Vermouth. Maybe. I don’t know how it would pair with the cream, but it’s lovely in a marinara.

Well, bourbon is okay, but the flavor is a little duller, less exciting, than vodka IMHO.

I’d second Vermouth, it’s what I use in my risottos.

You could probably have gotten away with a good dash of any decent red wine.

What about gin? Surely its flavors aren’t going to be any less complimentary than bourbon in a cream sauce.

I second the motion for gin. It’s a fairly neutral spirit like vodka, so it wouldn’t add a new flavour to the sauce so much as just punch up the ones that are already there.

In a pinch, vermouth would do, but only if it’s the dry white kind… sweet red or sweet white would be a no-no. I keep dry vermouth on hand as my default cooking booze, actually.

Bourbon tastes good. Probably wouldn’t hurt a cream sauce too much.

Gin tastes like pine needles, which would be opposite of what I’d want in a cream sauce.

Vermouth would have been my substitute, or a bit of wine.

I’d have sauted some shallots and garlic in with the pancetta after a bit, then added some chardonnay, cooked it down, then added tomato sauce and cream.

Pan sear some scallops or shrimp, or a panko coated herbed chicken breast, serve with a little penne, and a green salad and you’re good to go.

Or eat a bowl of it plain!

Depends on the sherry you have. A Fino or Manzanilla would be just fine, Amontillado would probably be ok, but an Oloroso or PX would not work at all.

Lesson learned. Never run out of vodka. :smiley:

That’s harder than it sounds. To help, try keeping a small bottle of crap vodka around. It’ll be fine for cooking, and it’ll be a punishment if you’re forced to drink it.

Lunch place I used to frequent in midtown used to always make this dish with tequila. It was on my weekly rotation.

ETA: America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated tested this dish with a variety of vodkas, and the cheap vodkas were a clear loser. Their conclusion was that it was not fine for cooking this dish, and that the cook is better off with a quality vodka.

Yeah, but who can cook with Grey Goose all the time? :smiley:

No it’s not. When I first moved to Minnesota I was a little concerned about the probability of me not being able to obtain emergency booze since liquor stores are not open on Sunday. What I’ve learned is to stock up. If you have only two litres of your favorite liquor, go to the store and buy more immediately. 'Cause once you’re out of one liter, you’ve only one left.


But it can get you looks from the guys at Bevmo. Sunday we stopped by and picked up a bottle of this year’s Old Forester Birthday bourbon. Cracked it that night and loved it so much that we went back for a back-up bottle yesterday (it’s a limited release). The same clerk checked us out, and I could see he was wondering if we had killed the whole bottle in one night. :smiley:

Yeah, I don’t think gin is neutral at all. For the longest time, it was pretty much the only spirit I couldn’t drink because I just couldn’t stand the strong juniper/pine flavor. I’ve since come around, but I can’t imagine it being good in a cream sauce, unless you’re using it for something that normally pairs well with juniper like game dishes, pork, or sauerkraut.

Good to hear. I’m a pretty big ATK disciple, so I shoulda known!

I make an awesome bratwurst saurkraut crock pot dish with gin in it. Mmm. I think it’s that time of the year again. :slight_smile:

But yeah, no gin with pancetta and cream.

Thank you! I was running low on booze and considered opening some random gin we had and smelled a pine tree! I was wondering if it had gone bad but I guess that’s just the way it smells.

I would suggest brandy. I don’t think alcohol really adds anything to food except when drinking it, but brandy has the wineness that goes with pasta with a bit extra alcohol for whatever people thinks that adds…